Model criticism, assumptions and just plain badly informed?

There has been much discussion over the last few years on model forums, and no doubt over a cuppa or three at many a model railway club, about the standard of the current ready to run models.

Bachman first raised the bar approximately 15 years ago with the introduction of their Blue Ribbon range and since then we have all come to expect great detail and accuracy, no longer will the hobby tolerate one model being passed off as another by a simple repaint. Since then all manufacturers have attempted to proved greater detail and accuracy beyond what 20 years ago we could have dreamt of.

There is the often raised issue of greater detail meaning more components to damage during handling, some modellers it would appear want the detail but don’t expect to handle with care…

With this continued increase in quality, accuracy and general level of detail I do accept there have been a number of howlers in the past few years of models that are in fact just plain wrong: such as the over wide or tubby class 47 from Heljan; the front end look of the Class 52 Western evading the ability of a number of manufacturers to get it right; items such as the tender frames and injector pipe work being the wrong way round on Hornby’s otherwise excellent T9 (which I add has since been rectified).

Putting such howlers to one side it is almost as if as overall accuracy increases there is a quest in some quarters to identify the smallest error (often due to manufacturing compromises) and turn it into a major issue. Even worse are the assumptions that one model must be wrong without proper research or evidence to back up such claims.

It does annoy me to see the incorrect reviews in magazines or criticism on forums of models that with a little research or checking could have prevented such confusion,  conjecture or even harming a manufacturer’s reputation or even sales.

Recently one of the respected model magazines claimed a certain model only had pick-ups on 4 of the 6 wheels when in fact all wheels had pick-ups, also a statement was made about a particular part of the model being the wrong shape which from the pictures of both the model and also photographs of the engine it was based on and at the time in which it was modelled clearly showed otherwise. Even within their own article later in the same publication there was a photograph printed that clearly contradicted the statement made in the review!

There is often discussions on online forums about the issues surrounding models where  posters made assumptions and confident appearing statements that can then be taken as gospel when all along the original poster was wrong not the model manufacturer!

In summery not all manufacturers will get things 100% correct 100% of the time and some compromises will always be needed, and errors do creep in. However it should not also be believed that every review that you read is likewise 100% correct as at the end of the day most model press work from limited budgets and staff numbers whom can not all be experts in every area of the hobby.

I myself always try and do some basic research before deciding if a model is correct or that I am building it right in the first place. I also tend work off the rule that if it looks right to me it is right,  and generally apply the 3 foot rule which if looks ok at a normal viewing distance of 3 foot then it will do me…

14 thoughts on “Model criticism, assumptions and just plain badly informed?

  1. In response to a comment about this post made elsewhere and mentioning the poor quality of the media I responded as follows: I would not go as far as to say poor quality, as I do appreciate the amount of work a “small team” noting that some teams are smaller that others, have to achieve to get the the magazine published each month. I also fully understand how some errors creep in such as typos or captions for photographs supplied in good faith get through the net. I am just highlighing that if something is going to be criticised then they should be able to substantiate the claim.

  2. Excellent article grahammuz and I do agree their is too much manufacturer bashing these days. Its a real shame as we have come such a long way form 20 years ago.
    I believe part of the problem are the public forums in general , anyone can have a say right or wrong, where people can hide behind their computers, find endless faults to show “the world” I’m an expert look at my knowledge. It is very easy to sit in your armchair and be critical of the latest release but little time as you say is actually given to why said manufacturer may have had to made a certain compromise. Personally I find one of the worst offenders is R# Web but in saying that their is a wealth of information on there with keen and excellent modellers.
    I am also of the opinion that certain “howlers”. are ham fisted with their finely detailed models and when they break something….lets blame the manufacturers packing, QA etc anyone, anything but themselves..
    Thanks for the article excellent points and just maybe this may dull some of the “howlers”

  3. All this increase in accuracy of the models available only highlights the overscale girders that they run on. When are we going to be offered ready to run scale track, not to P4 standards but at least scale sleeper sizes and spacing?

  4. Unfortunately the adverse comments were made in a monthly publication rather than a forum and whilst many comments made on forums are unaccountable, the periodical has an obligation to verify the facts before committing to print.

  5. On forums there are lots of inadequates to like to show off by bragging they can see errors that aren’t there. It gives them a bit of a thrill to enliven thier pathetic lives and postpones (again) the day when they have to do some modelling and dicover it’s a lot harder than fiddling with the interweb all day.

    In print I am always frustraited when reviewers say “something doesn’t look quite right”. My response is “Show me the numbers” If you say something isn’t right then you should be able to prove it with a measurement. Now I know with the tiny teams behind magazines this probably isn’t possible unless they have a plan to hand but vauge feelings aren’t what I want to be reading.

    Incidentally, talking of Wsterns, does anyone remember the long letter in LRJ from someone decrying the problems with the RTR models and saying he was going to produce some resin models that would be perfect. He even showed some CAD work to prove his point. I don’t recall the kits appearing. Perhaps he discovered that you sometimes have to compromise to get things out of the mould…

  6. Black Rat on RMweb commented…

    “There has to be realisation to that the small teams (and they are just that) are under increasing pressure re deadlines etc, I certainly dont envy them.
    With the pick up on a certain loco tho, I sussed it in about 30 seconds, as one of the FIRST things I ever do, is clean the wheels.
    You cannot accurately test a new loco without first cleaning all the manufacturing residue, or whatever off of the wheels.
    Only then will you get a good account of its performance, and of course how many wheels it picks up on”

  7. Marty Mc on Rmweb commented…

    “Good on you Graham for highlighting this topic. Not easy at all for the teams these days but at the same time they need to get right if they are going to be critical of a product do the research and make sure the information is factual as you said a manufacturers rep is on the line.
    So many people post without thinking I’m guilty of that from time to time. Sometimes I wonder why be so critical is it for your 5 minutes of fame on the forum, to show everyone you have a keen eye for detail while sitting in your arm chair?
    I find RMWeb one of the worst offenders for manufacturer bashing compared to other forums but again it can be argued “I have the right to say what I want as long as I think its right” One the other hand manufacturers need to be told when they get it wrong and address the real genuine issues.
    Manufacturers have come such a long way in the last 20 years, most of the models I see and use are brilliant, I just don’t seem to get the problems others report. Manufacturers sometimes need to compromise just to get it to run or it may just be too costly to tool up to get the 1 detail spot on.
    I think people like to also blame the manufacturer when they poorly handle the model or break something. Easy its a Q.A. issue…..not me.
    In general I think the manufacturers are doing a great job, trying to give us what we want and producing excellent quality models.”

  8. RJS1977 on RMweb commented…

    “As regards the extra details, I’d prefer it if they were sold as “extras” rather than included with the loco. That way the models themselves would be more affordable to people who wanted to buy them but didn’t necessarily want (or could afford) the details. This would of course include the younger enthusiasts”

    to which I replied..

    “Which is partly what Hornby are doing with their market segment positioning of the RailRoad range”

  9. Milkamn Matt on RMweb commented…

    “Possibly one small advantage of modelling from the other side of the world is that I don’t have ready access to the real thing (Other than grainy and Amatuer videos on you tube) so I can’t make comparrisons against models. I could go online and research an engine to the nth degree but I’m too lazy! . For me the best comparison is hold one of my more recent locos up against one from 10, 20 or even 30 years ago and see just how far the manufacturers have come over that period. I get very frustrasted with the press pickking on what really minor imperfections in a model and failing to appreciate the efforts of the manufacturer has gone to give us a more realistic looking model than was available 10 years ago. As one manufacturer put it some years ago, where do they draw the line as far as what detail to include on a model? Personally I applaud the efforts that manufacturers are going to to give us what we want but then again, I am on the other side of the world!!!”

  10. An interesting debate… and one well worth having!
    It is patently obvious that the model at the centre of this debate is Kernow’s new Beattie Well Tank (tell me if I’m mistaken!), which to all intent and purposes is stunning. I cannot comment on the four or six wheel pick-up issue (it seems as though the review in Model Rail was wrong on this, but that’s not for me to say).
    However, the issue of the “particular part” (i.e. the chimney) is certainly up for debate. In my opinion the review was very much justified to pick up on this issue, because to my eye as well the chimney is completely mishaped. A quick comparision with any photograph of the real thing testifies to this.
    Okay, there may have been a slight taper to the original casting, but it certainly didn’t look like a flower pot with a squashed lip at the top. Hornby’s M7 shows how the Drummond style chimney should be modelled, IMHO.
    I don’t consider myself a ‘rivet counter’, but if something looks wrong then it does jar with what may be an otherwise finely modelled product, which the Beattie certainly is.
    On the other hand, another magazine review says that the chimney has been perfectly captured (or words to that effect), which I naturally disagree with, but if that’s what the reviewer thinks, then so be it!
    If a review doesn’t point out these details, from the eye and opinion of the reviewer, what’s the point of reviewing something at all? This is particuarly important when people may part with 90 quid plus for each item…
    I agree wholly with anyone who says ‘if you don’t like it, don’t buy it’, but it is imperitive that potential customers are armed with as much information about the product as possible before buying; and an independent review is surely the best way to achieve that.
    I suspect that many – like me – will be digging out the junior hacksaw (or similar) to replace the plastic moulding with a casting. So that will be three for me then 🙂

  11. “I myself always try and do some basic research before deciding if a model is correct”

    ….and you think, in nearly 50 years of reviewing models, that I don’t!!!
    Come and see me at Model Rail Live and I’ll introduce you to SOME of the people who made the same comment (unprompted) and I’ll show you the photographs on which my comments are based.

    1. Chris

      I certainly was not directly implying or intending to imply that you personally don’t. There were a number of recent factors that influenced my post I have tried to instigate a general discussion and try to present a balanced view and raise a number of discussion points. Although I am unable to get to Model Rail Live this weekend I would certainly at some stage like the opportunity to see your file pictures, I realise that there has been some debate about the actual amount of taper on the model’s chimney but I was questioning the term parallel over tapered (however slight the taper might be).

  12. I just read the full article Beattie Well tank for the first time and this actually is a excellent example of manufacturer bashing. To be honest I have no interest in the actual loco, just not my thing. Very nice and well manufactured, now I understand the 6 pick up comment. Well I wonder how they actually find time to model being so busy on the forums posting this and that is wrong or “it doesnt look quite right”
    The above loco had nothing to do with my initial comments but goes far to support what I have said. What I don’t understand why post the same complaint on numerous different forums added to that their seems to be a select core of howlers who just go on and on.
    Most have no idea what goes into the manufacturing process the steps that lead to that fine model on your layout.
    As to “it doesnt look quite right” ha why not hire a digital scanner and tell us what not quite right.

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